Atomic Show #296 - Julia Pyke, Director of Finance Sizewell C 1

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  1. Good show – I liked the optimistic tone. These times need an optimistic tone. I particularly liked your guests comments on developing jobs for people. The example she gave of an apprentice working his way up to head a large project is the kind of story that inspires.

    Those units may seem expensive today but over the 60 years of their operating life, inflation will cause them to be cheap power in just a few years after completion.

    1. 60 years is EPR’s nominal design life. In the US the nominal design life for our Gen-II plants was 40 years, and all who have applied for a 20-year license extension have received one. There are upgrade costs. Those who have applied for a second 20-year extension have also received them, albeit they are currently in limbo as the NRDC revises details of what it requires in an EIS. I’m resonably confident UK’s EPRs will achieve similar longevity, though regret my own will not be sufficient to see it.

      Nuclear power really is a very good deal — if you can afford it. Thanks to Julia Pyke for a very informative discussion.

        1. It was unintentional, but NRC’s EIS revisions were made as result of lawsuit filed by Beyond Nuclear, Miami Waterkeeper, Friends of the Earth, and National Resources Defense Council, so point taken.

  2. The one and only name of the game is affordable, safe, low-carbon, secure, 24/7/365, dispatchable electricity for all of humankind.

    In the UK, 3,200 Sizewell C is to cost us £20 billion.

    3,200 MW of Rolls-Royce UK SMR would cost £12.3 billion. They could be operating by 2033; 80% UK manufactured content; EPZs at the site boundaries.

    Other than the tiny percentage of humanity that can be ‘served’ by micro reactors, SMRs can do the rest.

    Big nuclear’ does not have ONE single advantage over SMRs.

    Right now, nuclear power is on a knife edge with the potential of another NPP ‘event’ from artillery strikes on a ‘Big-Nuke’ plant. It’s easy to imagine Greenpeace and their ilk sat there with bated breath and fingers crossed, hoping for something like this to happen. With huge source terms like Fukushima, how easy for them to concoct a ‘repeat’ scenario having the potential to spread radionuclides far and wide yet again.

    It would write off any future prospects of nuclear power’s expansion in the battle to replace fossil fuels.

    By contrast, SMRs with their ‘manageable’ source terms, sited far and wide geographically (as were coal-fired plants when grid electricity ‘kicked off’), can be politically ‘sold’ to consumers as being as safe as any other chemical/industrial complex.

    Big nuclear needs to be allowed to wither on the vine. Our top pro-nuke communicators, like Rod Adams, should be saying so and promoting SMRs as the future of nuclear power, with the capability to do all of the heavy lifting in the battle to replace fossil fuel use.

    1. Point to all teh SMRs generating commercial electricity.

      Until you can do that you have no firm cost numbers. You just have scribblings on paper.

      Nuclear cannot afford to attack itself, as you are doing.

      Every projection I’ve seen still shows energy from large reactors coming in vastly less expensive than the projected costs of new SMRs.

    1. Overnight cost per unit of power for RRs SMR will not be better than an EPR. It may be easier to finance and attract a lower interest rate which may make it cheaper, but that is it.

      If Hinckley C had its interest rate on the finance the same as off shore wind it would have cost around £60MWh (5%) if the government had directly financed it it would have cost less than £40MWh. There is a UK government study which shows this in a nice graph.

      As hinted at in the talk, wind achieved its biggest cost reductions through improving the financing terms. RAB financing of nuclear can do the same

  3. Thanks for posting the photo, Rod. It doesn’t appear Ms. Pyke was speaking direct from Florida? 🙂

  4. Indeed, Ms. Pyke did mention SMRs, and hoped-for eventual fusion as well. But 2033 is not 2026, and UK recognizes a clear and continuing path forward to replace its existing aging reactor fleet. As does France.

    I do not think you will find any lack of support for SMRs on this site. Nor for energy security.

    But the only commercial SMRs currently in operation are one in China and two (at the same plant) in Russia. Meanwhile, we in the West have three GW scale commercial designs in production, two in actual operation: EPR (France), APR1400 (S. Korea and UAE), and AP1000 (US).

    Should Mr. Putin desire to deploy a dirty radioactive nuclear weapon in Ukraine (or elsewhere), I’m pretty sure he needn’t shop around for source material. You may well be right about the potential response of such deployment from the Green community, but there is increasing political realization that they — with Mr. Putin’s funding and propaganda support — no matter how unwittingly and well intentioned, materially contributed to EU’s current energy crises in the first place.

    There’s plenty enough opportunity for sobering introspection to go around.

    Apart from coal, possibly oil and (perhaps in the EU but not the US) hydro, can you suggest any substantial electricity source — reliable or otherwise — that would exist today had they been allowed to “wither on the vine”?

    Because how we as society support these things and their development, is precisely the topic Ms. Pyke is continuing to help address.

    Thanks for your comment and opinions!

    1. Big-Nuclear will wither on the vine through lack of investment as low-cost SMRs inexorably bleed them dry of investment.

      Rolls-Royce SMR pulling in £millions of commercial investment and will begin building factories this year.

      GE Hitachi is also pulling in $millions of commercial investment for their BWRX-300 SMR and site clearance is underway at the Ontario Power Generation (OPG) site in Canada, for the FOAK operation in 2028. Search for:
      “international advance of GE Hitach’s BWRX-300”

      Both of these companies have been in the nuclear power business for 60 years and are far removed from start-up companies grubbing about for finance and battling regulators with ‘novel’ technologies.

      Both the costings and the CODs will be met ‘as near as damn-it’.

      1. One can never know what the future can hold.

        SMRs by their nature have duplication to produce the same amount of power as a large nuclear unit.

        As was stated previously, the use of SMRs is very limited. Potential customers will want something with a proven track record if they have the choice.

        The amount of investment in and of itself may not be a wholly valid reason for the selection of SMR units. One need only look at all the money cast into the fusion black hole and the remarkable proclamations issued by researchers.

        SMRs will probably be a common energy source in the future. Sales of a new type of nuclear power plant to potential end user presents difficulties at the present time. Some ideas take time to be adopted.

      2. A word of caution on RR SMR. RR are excellent at producing glossy brochures (and the importance should never be underestimated fo PR in any enterprise). However scratch away and you will find a conventional 3 loop PWR design of 440MWe. This is neither small or any more modular than say an AP1000. Indeed the AP600 which the AP1000 is merely an enlarged version could be considered technically superior with better cost metrics.

        There are many valid reasons for the UK to re established the ability to design and build conventional reactor designs from national defence to energy independence. If we build enough RR reactors then we may be able to compete with Westinghouse EDF China Korea and Russia in the international sales of conventional PWRs. But be under no illusion RR’s offering is not a game changer from a technology perspective and may not even be a game changer from a financing perspective due to its quite large size.

        1. @Jeremy: Certainly and indeed, there is ongoing debate as to the cost effectiveness of large vs small reactors. On the large side, see for instance where MIT speculates 1150 MW AP1000 Nth-of-a-kind at USD2900/kW — for N a small integer greater than approximately 10.

          Call it 40 or 50 billion USD.

          Gulp. Still, 2900 $/kW remains a very attractive deal — if you can afford it. This is where the Julia Pykes of the world come in: creating the finance circumstance where this sort of thing, be it AP1000 or RR or bigger or smaller or whatever, can happen. Regardless of size, serial production counts.

          If I recall correctly, Rolls Royce designed it’s reactor very conservatively, along the traditional line that the larger the reactor, the greater the economy of scale. An idea that has yet to be proven wrong, as much as we might all hope eventually to be shown otherwise. So RR choose 440 MW simply because they felt that was the largest pressure vessel they and their partners could reasonably forge domestically within the UK.

          There’s admittedly some economic benefit to keeping the pounds local.

          1. Yeah that is about it, I was also surprised to find out RR had decided on a three loop plant. with the AP600 and AP1000 both two loop plants, I would have thought they would have copied that approach as it reduces the number of nuclear class 1 components by 1/3 compared to RR’s design. As you mention this might be a supply chain and shipping consideration in relation to SG size.

            Westinghouse did offer the AP600 (and a slightly smaller but essentially same AP300) design to the UK government including all the associated IP. With RR getting all the funding and none of the international players seemingly getting a look in in the UK, ill leave it to everyone else to draw conclusions ;).

            The big thing is financing, in an ideal and logical world the government would put up the money. If you go to the link below and review figure 4, it tells the entire story. More over this is the UK government National Audit Office assessment, not EDF, or any vested industrial player.


          2. Best report any government has done on nuclear costs is


            it shows how essentially if the government had completely financed HPC the strike price would have been only £27 on the high estimate (actually negative on the low estimate!). The entire economics of building any national infrastructure is just a function of the cost of capital.

            and if £18bn over ~10 years sounds like a lot of money, the UK government spent over £37bn on providing free covid tests to the UK population without batting an eyelid in one year. I don’t want to start any debate on the value for money of UK’s covid testing strategy, only that it provides an illustration that politics costs the rate payer when if politics was removed and rational decision on what is the cost optimum for the tax payer of any country, would be direct government finance for any infrastructure.

            1. The energy market is privatised from top to bottom. Big-Nuclear is, sadly, not investable in the market place and will wither on the vine if these market conditions prevail.

              Rolls-Royce SMR Ltd, is pulling in private finance, as is GE Hitachi for their BWR-300 SMR, at governmental level, from utility operators and from business owners of energy-intensive industries.

              For this simple reason alone, SMRs will be the future of nuclear power in the mixed economy nations interested in low-carbon energy use.

            2. The cost of capital does not change the fundamentals that factory manufacture minimising time of on-site construction results in massive savings and an OCC for the R-R SMR some 40%/MW lower than the OCC for Sizewell C.

              3,200 MW of R-R UK SMRs £12.25 billion
              3,200 MW of EPRs ~£20 billion

          3. At $.15 per kilowatt hour which is the national average, and figuring a three cent per kilowatt hour operating cost which is also the national average, a one gigawatt $5 billion nuclear power reactor pays for itself in four years.

            Obviously if you can do this for 3 billion with SMR’s, the number is less.

            Japan and China have both built large scale nuclear reactors in four years. It can be done.

            If it can be done at this rate it makes the math easier. Nuclear power can expand exponentially with the doubling time of four years. And this is with no more money than the initial investment, since newer reactors are paid for by the profit from the older ones.

            100 of such reactors would replace all of US electrical grid coal fired power plants, at a cost of $500 billion. That is about half of what we spend on energy every year, and it’s about twice what we just spent trying to do green energy upgrades and carbon reduction, and got only 1% decrease for it.

            With this reinvestment cycle 100 reactors turns into 200 reactors in eight years, 400 in 12 years, and 1600 GW in 20 years. That is the point at which ALL US energy needs including transportation and agriculture are supplied by nuclear electricity. Shocking.

            We are wasting time. It is the most precious thing we have right now, and we are letting “the best be the enemy of the good.”

            Build the AP1000 reactors and fuel them with a ANEEL alloy. Let better designs compete as time goes along, but don’t stop building reactors NOW while we settle on the best design. We are again losing time. Every reactor we build at this price pays for the next one in 4 years. This is a payback so fast that we don’t even have to worry about amortization on the time scale.

            Nor do we have to worry about private investment and paying back private investors. And we have seen how fast the government can spend $500 billion and get nothing.

            Comments? Don’t be picky. If the figure is 5 years the total nuclear replacement time of all energy goes to 25 years. So what?

            1. An exponential expansion of nuclear electricity requires a (steady) exponential expansion of the entire supply chain. The supply chain includes not just engineering parts, but also fuel, skilled manpower and recycling facilities. Just such an expansion is being centrally planned and funded in China. The plans include a transition to fast-neutron reactors around 2050, for which the accumulating plutonium provides start-up fuel. Recent plans are for 1400 GW of capacity by 2100, mostly fast reactors. Such expansion should be being planned right now for all economies around the world.

              Expansion in China
              1400 MW by 2100

        2. “…This is neither small or any more modular than say an AP1000…”

          The high quality presentation of this video, by Tom Samson the CEO of Rolls-Royce SMR Ltd., is well worth 54 minutes of anybody’s time.

          The starting point of the design is the width of a road-transportable load in the UK. Working ‘inwards’ from that gives a core size, which results in an installed capacity of 470 MWe. All modules [from different factory locations] can be transported by road.

          Search YouTube for: rolls-royce smr industry talk

            1. I can’t for the life of me understand why Rolls is investing in LWR technology. Or Holtec and NuScale, for that matter. From my perspective, the current issue isn’t so much about reactor size as reactor efficiency and closing the fuel cycle. New research is showing that heat rejection from power plants is a significant contributor to global temperature rise and a plant that dumps 3200 megawatts of waste heat for the 1600 MWe it produces while only using a small fraction of the fuels’ available energy is incredibly wasteful and simply not sustainable. It should also be noted that the idea behind using an LWR design (at least in NuScale’s case) is to -ostensibly- get to market more quickly than Gen IV designs. Yet NuScale’s first plant is being beaten by both Natrium and the Xe-100.

            2. I don’t see a way to reply to Jon Grams, so I will reply here.
              According to this calculation at the bottom of the linked web page
              The waste heat from power production to provide everyone with several kW each, would be small compared to the warming from the already emitted CO2. So even with efficiency of only ~30% the waste heat is only a problem locally where water bodies to take waste heat are small

            3. @Jon Grams said: “New research is showing that heat rejection from power plants is a significant contributor to global temperature rise…”

              Not to be skeptical, but my own envelope back suggests otherwise. Do you have a link for that?

        3. A bit beyond glossy brochures is announcing that 400 jobs are up for grabs with Rolls-Royce SMR Ltd.

          Taking on a £15 million per year wages bill is a serious commitment to starting manufacture this year, completing licensing and advancing the COD by a year to 2029.

          Search for: rolls-royce appoints rpone

  5. Nobody should have any doubt that Rolls-Royce, or any other world-class design bureau like it, is able to design, and in a supportive environment, field an incrementally improved reactor of any of the mainstream, proven types – yet. Yet, the years tick by… a full decade has passed since Rod himself was employed by a SMR firm [that no longer exists]. The earliest mentions of a Rolls-Royce SMR have to be nearly a decade old by now. I definitely made the right choice abandoning product development work in nuclear power… every time we conclude another 500-day cycle or fix a problem at/or improve OUR plants, I feel a sense of accomplishment that was promised, but never delivered by the pork barrel spending on flashy startups. My advice to the exuberant grad students, commentators, spectators, futurists – those with ability – do your best to get on board and contribute to the successful operations at a commercial or navy plant for a decade. That experience is VITAL to understanding the challenges of nuclear power that pure academics dismiss as luddite, over-cautious, uninspired or worse: conspiracy driven. It pays well, and you will grow weary of the armchair banter that is so common on both sides (pro/anti).

    1. @Michael Scarangella

      I took away different lessons from the mPower experience than you did. I share your sense of frustration, but I also remember a number of choices made by a particular CEO that could have made a world of difference and enabled us to have submitted a complete, high quality application by 2012-2013 and to have begun construction by 2016 at the latest.

      How many times were we directed to redesign the system to accommodate a marginal power increase? How much time did each one of those changes add to the schedule?

      I’m not sure if you have kept up with some of the international developments in SMRs, but it is very difficult for me to fail to notice the similarities between China’s ACP-100 and the mPower reactor we worked on. Do you remember how many times out leaders visited China? (I also remember how many times those visits resulted in delayed approvals for procedures I had written and had reviewed through the entire chain – save one individual.)

  6. Jon Grams comment is overconfident at best. There is certainly no such “new research”, instead we are being given unnecessary work to show that it is nonsense.

    Global warming is due to the imbalance between radiation in and radiation out. With the earth’s surface absorbing and re-radiating more than 1 kW/m2 of the intercepted solar radiation, its heat flux is more than 130,000 TW, vastly more than the heat given out by all of humanity’s power generation and consumption. If 10 billion of us each consume 1 kW of electricity, ultimately dumping 3 kW of heat into the environment, totalling 30 TW. From Stefan’s law of radiation, the fractional increase in temperature in our radiation cavity is a quarter of the fractional increase in radiation, 30/130000/4, about 0.017 of a degree. That is, it is negligible, below the noise level.

    1. @Roger Clifton. Average solar insolation over the earth’s surface is 238 W/m^2. Anthropogenic heat — fossil fuels and nuclear — is currently 16.9 TW, or 0.033 W/m^2 average over earth’s surface. 0.033 / 238 = 1.4E-4.

      Earth’s black-body temperature at surface (effective temperature) is 255K. For anthropogenic contribution Stefan-Boltzmann law gives delta T = T0 * (delta P/P0) / 4 = 255K * 1.4E-4 / 4 = 0.009 K, or about half your estimate and twice as negligible. Still only 13% of the 11-year solar cycle noise.

      That said, there is in fact at least one recent publication that does dispute such basic physics. (It actually disputes quite a bit more than that — don’t show it to Engineer-Poet. Or Rod.) I had refrained from linking it against the hope @Jon Grams has something else.

      1. @Ed Leaver, thank you for using numerical facts and figuring in International Units, so students can follow our reasoning. We actually agree – the apparent discrepancy of 4x is because I am counting the incoming radiation on earth’s interception disc (area pi*R2) whereas you have quoted the outgoing radiation averaged over earth’s spherical surface (4*pi*R2), so giving a similar total radiation flux.

        Plugging 250 or 238 W/m2 back into Stefan’s equation, we get earth’s equivalent black body temperature as 258 or 255 K respectively. This is earth’s radiation temperature as would be measured by an astronomer on Mars, roughly the temperature at the top of our cloud layer. Inside that altitude is our leaky radiation cavity, where the natural greenhouse effect raises that to our average temperature of 287 K at the surface.

    2. Jon Gram’s argument sounds like anti-nuclear straw grasping to me.

      I saw the exact same argument made about 15 years ago, maybe in the Ars Technica forum for a relevant article.

      When they run out of all other arguments, they’ll claim we can’t add heat to the system.

    1. Belated or not, your reply is welcome, Jon. I must admit having some difficulty comprehending what author Qinghan Bian thinks he has done. From his abstract “an equivalent climate change surface air boundary layer depth between 50 and 100 m” and “the anomalies in oceans fall within a range of simulations at an equivalent climate change waters surface boundary layer depth between 0.10 and 0.20 m”. What do these even mean?

      The atmosphere does not have a mixing boundary layer, equivalent or otherwise, beneath 100m. Rather, our atmosphere mixes by thermal convection up to the tropopause at roughly 10km. Watch a summer thunderstorm: the top of an anvil cloud can reach at least 8km.

      Similarly — and I’m a landlubber so the sailors on the thread please correct me — it seems reasonable an ocean’s surface is thermally mixed at least to its fair weather wave depth, typically 5 to 15 meters. Not 20cm. Open ocean storm swells can reach a height up to 15m, which would be the diameter of their primary orbit. Secondary orbits reach much deeper.

      I haven’t time to plunge too deeply into Mr. Bian’s paper. Perhaps I am mistaken, but superficially he appears to begin by rejecting common-sense meteorology, oceanography, and nearly two centuries of climate research from Fourier to Tyndall to Arrhenius to Callendar to Revelle to Keeling to Hansen to Mann and literally thousands of their colleagues in between. That all these folks somehow Got It Wrong is certainly an extraordinary claim.

      No evidence, but there follows a middling portion descrbing a Brave New Model that somehow sets aright the asserted-but-not-demonstrated failures of his predecessors.

      Bian then concludes with the customary plea for emissions dispensation for his favorite charity: predictably enough, intermittant renewables with their co-requisite gas.

      One wonders why this was ever considered for publication. But thanks for sharing, and welcome to Atomic Insights!

  7. Julia Pyke mentioned that the hydrogen industry is interested in using nuclear electricity as well as renewables’. That would enable round-the-clock electrolysis. The renewables movement has long relied on the prospect of being able to produce hydrogen as an intermediate fuel to “firm” its intermittent power into on-demand form. However, if hydrogen can be more cheaply produced by a nuclear thermochemical process such as the [url=]sulphur-iodine process[/url], the renewables industry may lose its possibly most significant intermittent customer – electrolytic hydrogen. Of course, the nuclear-generated hydrogen could still be used to firm the intermittent supply from renewables.

    1. Well, as E-P has occasionally observed, it becomes a matter of whether the capital cost of the hydrogen generating plant is sufficiently low as to make lower-temperature intermittent operation worthwhile, as opposed to running warmer and more continuously with either nuclear, or a combination of nuclear and renewables. The same will be said for Direct Air Capture, for which US DOE is sponsoring demonstrations of two different approaches at Byron and Farley nuclear plants:

      Japan is setting up a demonstration hydrogen production project at the High-Temperature Test Reactor (HTTR) in Oarai, Ibaraki Prefecture. Renewables produce cheap electricty, but is intermittant and limited to low temperatures. Perhaps this too will be an application the two might contribute synergisticly.,-MHI-team-up-for-HTTR-hydrogen-project

      1. Ambient temperature electrolysers will approach an OCC of $300/kW within a couple of years and head on down to $200/kW a few years after that. The lifespan might only be 10 to 15 years, so maybe 5 installations required over the lifespan of an SMR. All in all, that’s still pretty cheap.

        SMRs in combination with low temperature electrolysers can manufacture 18 to 20 kg/MWh, which might prove profitable at $2 to $3/kg. Jo Bamford of Ryze Hydrogen says greenH2 is competitive to diesel at $8/kg for transport.

        These electrolysers can respond to power changes in milliseconds without any functional deterioration. This would allow an SMR/electrolyser unit to load follow dysfunctional wind and solar power plants (WASPPs) as effectively as gas-fired plant.

        In the UK, such a unit would benefit from 4 revenue streams: grid electricity; greenH2 sales; load following grid service; frequency correction grid service.

        In respect of high temperature electrolysis, NuScale are claiming that a NuScale Power Module (77 MWe/250 MWt) can deliver steam at 850 °C for high temperature steam electrolysis (HTSE) to boost manufacture by 50% to 27 kg/MWh [equivalent].

        LWR SMRs so dedicated to greenH2 manufacture could probably operate profitably at $1.5/kg, which is a level unsubsidised WASPPs could never hope to approach.

        This LWR high temperature ‘development’ begs the question – why wait a decade or two for price-competitive HTRs, when SMRs will be available this decade, with the promise of OCCs down to $2,250/kW?

          1. According to a white paper on the NuScale site:


            “Energy from a single NPM in the form of superheated
            steam and electricity are directly routed to a HTSE system
            operating at 850°C. Only 2% of the electrical output (1.8 MWe)
            of the NPM is used to increase the process steam temperature
            from 300°C at the NPM outlet to 850°C for the electrolyzer.”

            1. So – steam output from the SMR at 300° C gets compressed to 850° C, doubling its absolute temperature. If Nuscale estimates that hot flow is to be maintained with only 1.8 MW input, the energy of compression must be recycled. Perhaps the electrolysis cell is sandwiched between two turbine stages.

              It strikes me that the projected market in hydrogen is riding on a popular perception that electrolysis is good at extracting hydrogen from stuff. However the projected downstream handling and applications of hydrogen seem to be both hazardous and chemically difficult. It strikes me that nuclear electrolysis would be better used *to extract oxygen* from stuff. Stuff being not just water, but also biomass and eventually CO2. That would amount to direct synthesis of transport fuels, which is where the consumer base is already.

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